Taste Testing: The Five Weirdest Foods at the North Carolina State Fair
It’s that time of year again: that time when folks of all shapes and sizes converge upon the epicenter of our home-sweet-home state to sample the strange (and sometimes sketchy) food and drink that only carnies have to offer. That’s right, people: it’s time for the North Carolina State Fair!!!
Now, you may think there are better or more important things to do at the fair, like strapping oneself into giant death machines that fling you every which way; throwing money at street vendors to guess your age or let you shoot things in exchange for colossal plush animals; or to see what sorts of crafts and livestock events North Carolinians can throw together when they put their minds to it.
But to you I say, “NAY!” Food: the sweet mana of our existence, the provider of both nourishment and great taste sensations! It’s important, dammit! And this year, my fiancé Heather and I decided to head on over to the NC State Fair and stuff ourselves with the strangest and most bizarre carnie foods we could find. And we’re not just talking about your everyday funnel cakes, or your boring old turkey legs. No, we found some ridiculous-sounding combinations that may just Blow. Your. Mind.
1. Deep-Fried Gummy Bears
Heather literally pulled me along all throughout the fair because we had to have these first. WRAL even did a segment on how fun and interesting they were. This was the main event of our whole trip for her! Thankfully she didn’t have to tug my arm off to find the vendor as it was right next to a stand with an enormous inflatable gummy bear over the top.
So we paid for our $7 deep-fried, powdered gummy bear on a stick and gushed with excitement as the woman behind the counter handed us our first meal of the day.
But this is when things began to get dicey. The woman told us NOT to hold the gummy bear up by the stick, as it was hot and would slide clean off. Strike One. We sat down on the curb across from the vendor’s stand and, gripping my small plastic fork resolutely, plunged the flimsy blade into the gummy bear. Or at least, I tried.
I came away with a big chunk of pastry, but the gummy bear was so rubbery that it bounced away from my fork deeper into the catacombs of the pastry. So the insides of the bear were too hot to be held with the stick, but not hot enough cooked through to actually spear yourself a good bite. And that’s strike two. Thankfully, I was able to slurp some of the bear’s gooey residue off of the piece of the pastry I had cut.
Now, if you’re a fan of deep-fried cough syrup, then you’re going to LOVE these deep-fried gummy bears. I however am not, and with disappointment searing my tongue, I handed the dish over to Heather for a taste, counting strike three. But my poor Heather did not have any better luck than I did, merely cutting off a piece of flakey pastry with some residue dripping from it. And here’s a graphic bonus for you: remember the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Han uses Luke’s lightsaber to cut open the tauntaun for warmth and that was super-gross? Well, when we got through enough of the pastry and those slimey gummy innards came rolling out, it was much, MUCH worse. Appetites: gone. We were certain there would be nothing else that would turn our stomachs worse than the cough syrup bears.
2. Deep-Fried Livers and Gizzards
We were wrong. As we walked along, searching for something else that would be interesting and different, we came upon a little stand with huge words emblazoned across it. Normally I wouldn’t think anything of such a stand, as they’re a dime a dozen at the NC State Fair, but my eyes were drawn to what I thought said “Livers and Gizzards.” I drew closer, thinking I must be mistaken. I was not. Now, I know that it’s common in lots of places where people really do like eating the poison filters of other animals. It’s not my thing, but I try not to judge. But gizzards? The chicken’s second stomach? Even the cartoon chicken beaming down at me from the banner, was so excited about it, as if it were saying, “PLEASE chew my deep-fried back-up tummy, I will relish the experience!”
So for the sake of interesting foods at the fair, and your entertainment, of course (you damn well better be grateful), I paid the amused-looking man behind the counter and took my tray of deep-fried livers and gizzards.
This time we walked a little ways away though, so that, should we hurl, we wouldn’t offend the vendors who sold us the poison filters and understudy tummies. Steeling myself, I bit into the oil-battered liver. At first, I didn’t taste anything. But then, as the fumes made their way up into my nose, I was reminded of 9th Grade science class, dissecting those frogs, and the memory of that same smell came rushing back to me, and I let that lump of innards roll right off my tongue back into the basket.
I couldn’t even get through the gizzard; it was so tough and gamey that my teeth simply could not tear through it. It was at this point, eyes watering, that Heather and I decided it was time to find something a little sweeter. A palette-cleanser, if you will.
3. Deep-Fried Pickle Chips
There’s not much I can say regarding the deep-fried “pickle chips” we tried just around the bend.
It was quite possibly the most straightforward dish we’d tried all day: they were pickles, cut into little slices, and deep-fried and battered into wikkle-bitty potato-chip-looking pennies. Served with Ranch. The potent vinegary sting of the pickles, made that much more potent by the blistering temperature made for an exceptional palette-cleanser. But those little buggers really are potent; they’re like the Noisy Cricket of fair foods, and one of those tiny baskets of chips could easily satisfy a large group of people in their flavor-intensity!
4. Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe
Many of you have probably heard about this one. I heard about it on G105 and was, admittedly, my main event of the trip! You’ll actually find this meal-dessert in the same line as the deep-fried pickle chips. (Yay!) We sat down at a bench with our strange fusion masterpiece and prepared to dig in. Heather made me grab forks, though; a decision that, in hindsight, was definitely for the best, as a dish that is described right there in the title as “sloppy” was being held together by a pastry covered in what was now melted, glazed sugar. Taking a nice heaping helping onto my fork, I eagerly scooped that sucker into my mouth.
Worlds collided. Birds sang. Attractive men and women danced naked in the streets. Volcanoes everywhere erupted love. Somewhere, Journey was playing.
The sweet, tangy sauce lathered my tongue in oily suds, as if my tongue were being bathed by Mother Nature in her private hot spring. Then came the bits and chunks of meat byproduct. Oh, that savory, salty byproduct. They all came together to form the first ever meat byproduct gospel choir, to deliver the delicious good news to my willing mouth.
But wait, somewhere in all that Nirvana, there was cheese. Fancy and sophisticated mozzarella, and simple but appreciated cheddar, shredded and melted together to provide an adhesive that bonds and beauty of that which is sloppy joe, and that which is donut, together at their basest levels, right down to the very protons and electrons, marveling at their own inherent beauty and splendor as they dance together the dance of life. And that’s when it hits you! The glaze.
Right as you swallow, after decades of endless enjoyment, a sudden rush of sweetness and the sugar of the donut’s glaze is realized, tickling your taste buds with goose pimples after the hard, therapeutic massage has left you hypersensitive to the touch. It’s as if the sweet aftertaste is there to remind you that, though this life is fleeting, you will always be safe. Always be loved.
It was alright. Definitely better than anything else we’d tried so far while we’d been there.
5. Pizza Waffles
We were walking back up the hill to get to the shuttle bus, ready to call it a day, when suddenly, “pizza waffles.” Let me say that again: PIZZA. WAFFLES. Two of the greatest inventions ever to grace mankind’s highly unsanitary mouth worked together to create this epic superfood!
“I’ll have a pizza waffle, please,” I told the cashier as I handed her my bills and she told me to wait by the picnic tables set up underneath the small tent set up next to their trailer.
It was actually rather pleasant, relaxing in the shade of the tent at Brussels Crepes as we waited on our food, serenaded by the dulcet tones of dubstep and hardstyle pulsing from within the trailer. After several minutes of UHNTSS UHNTSS UHNTSS at our quaint little table, our food was ready.
On the plus side, the serving was GINORMOUS (just like all things Amurrrican). On the downside, somehow, the waffle part of the dish was overdone and burnt in numerous places and the pizza part of the dish was undercooked and bitterly cold in a few spots. We left the pizza waffle for broke, grabbed some Cheerwines, and booked. Now, we all know that we don’t go eat the food at the NC State Fair for nourishment, nor do we eat if for the great taste sensations. Heck, some of the taste sensations would kick you in the crotch just for the cheap thrill of it.
No, the reason any of us goes and consumes the odd concoctions these culinary mad scientists prepare for us is to say we did, to have a fun story to tell our friends about for later. To cross it off our bucket lists for some of us. I know that’s what I’ll be doing! Like Bilbo Baggins when he reluctantly went off on his first adventure with the Dwarf clan in The Hobbit. Or when the guys from Jackass do ANYTHING. I truly hope that when you go to the NC State Fair, you have a fulfilling experience that you’ll tell your friends about. We certainly did!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to poop.